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Salmonella in pet food: Not a matter of if, a matter of when

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Scott Garmon, of the Garmon Corporation, discusses the harsh realities of salmonella contamination in the pet industry. Bottom line: Product testing is fundamental.


I recently spoke to Scott Garmon about product safety for Nutrition Business Journal’s August 2011 Animal Nutrition issue. He owns the Garmon Corporation, which manufactures supplement products for the pet industry, along with marketing the NaturVet line of pet supplements.

Ingredient safety is top of mind for most in the nutrition industry, but pet product companies have to keep especially astute, given that their raw materials aren’t necessarily given the same conscientious care that we hope human products enjoy. Especially considering the tragic 2007 melamine-tainting scandal that killed so many U.S. pets, formulators have become a bit more vigilant.

Pet food is a little different from supplements, but they often share flavoring ingredients like chicken and turkey meal. Garmon Corp is one of the largest contract manufacturers in the animal supplement arena, so quality assurance is paramount.

Truth is, though, that contamination is very likely. “Recalls have become more prevalent lately,” Garmon says. “Salmonella is especially difficult to detect. Cross-contamination happens very easily from the raw to the finished product.” Garmon spends more than 10 times as much on testing every year than he did five or six years ago.

And it can happen to anyone. Companies with recalls in 2010 include Blue Buffalo for excess vitamin D; Kroger and Supervalu for aflatoxin; Wysong for mold; and Hartz, Iams, Natural Balance, Merrick and Nature’s Variety for salmonella.

“I’ve turned away two ingredients recently,” Garmon says. In so doing, he was effectively able to avoid a recall, which can be disastrous in an industry where brand loyalty is so integral to success. “With salmonella, it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen. It’s when.”

So what’s to be done?

A smart businessman is going to sit down and form a HACCP [Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points] plan,” Garmon says. HACCP plans address food safety control from raw material production all the way down to consumption. “There is no perfect. If you’re not changing on a daily or weekly basis, shame on you.”

Sobering words. Moral of the story is that product testing is fundamental, especially if you’re a manufacturer, especially in the pet industry. Blame falls on the brand owner, and a contract burned is a contract lost. 

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